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Harrington v. Hasemayer

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

January 9, 2014

KENDRICK BUTLER, #M-03292, Plaintiff,
v.
RICK HARRINGTON, KIMBERLY BUTLER, REDNOUR, GAETES, LT. VEATH, JASON HART, OFFICER ANTHONY, and SGT. HASEMAYER, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center ("Pontiac"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is serving an 80-year sentence for murder. The complaint was filed in this Court on December 10, 2013, but had been signed by Plaintiff on October 11, 2013, apparently before his transfer to Pontiac. Plaintiff's numerous claims arose while he was confined at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), and include allegations that he was subjected to excessive force, retaliated against for filing grievances against prison staff, denied equal access to educational programs and legal materials, and deprived of due process in the handling of prison disciplinary charges, among other claims.

In addition to the instant case, a second complaint submitted separately by Plaintiff was received on December 13, 2013, and filed as Butler, Bell, and Brown v. Harrington, et al., Case No. 13-cv-1285-MJR. Much of the complaint in that case is an exact copy of the instant complaint, but Plaintiff included two different pages in his statement of claim, and listed two additional Plaintiffs in the caption. That complaint is awaiting screening by the assigned Judge.

The Complaint

Plaintiff states that he was incarcerated at Menard since 2009 (Doc. 1, p. 4). Since that time, he was "denied equal protection rights" to participate in educational and rehabilitative programs. Id.

On an unspecified date, Plaintiff was "attacked" by several prison officials while he was being returned to Menard from a federal court writ. Id. He could not discern their identities, but he complained about the excessive use of force to Defendant Hasemayer (of Internal Affairs).

He claims that throughout his stay at Menard, the unidentified law library clerk has denied him access to legal materials and supplies, causing him to be late in filing documents (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5).

Plaintiff's housing area has been placed on "level 1 deadlock" for close to two years. During these excessive lockdown periods, he was denied medical, legal, and health privileges. He again invokes an equal protection claim, because other areas of the prison were not subjected to the same lockdown restrictions (Doc. 1, p. 5).

Plaintiff's legal and personal mail has been "mishandled" throughout his stay at Menard by unspecified persons. His legal mail was opened outside his presence, and some legal documents were lost, including a post-conviction petition, letters from attorneys, and outgoing legal material.

Plaintiff raises several claims that "wrongful" disciplinary reports have been lodged against him, and that he was improperly punished with segregation. In April 2011, he was given six months in segregation on three disciplinary infractions (Doc. 1, p. 5; Doc. 1-1, pp. 1-2). However, on July 22, 2011, two of the charges were deleted and Plaintiff's punishment was reduced to only one month in segregation. He was released from segregation on July 29, 2011, and claims he served 60 days longer than he should have, after his punishment was adjusted. Id. Shortly after this release, Plaintiff was sent away on a federal court writ.

On September 11, 2013, Plaintiff was charged with fighting, dangerous disturbance, and dangerous contraband (Doc. 1, p. 5). He contested these charges but was found guilty. He claims that the evidence against him included statements from a confidential informant who saw Plaintiff with a weapon, but he was not allowed to confront that individual in his disciplinary hearing. Plaintiff indicates that he requested witnesses to be called to the hearing on his behalf, and that somebody (either Plaintiff, or his witnesses, or the confidential informant - the complaint is unclear on this point) was not called to that hearing (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff "was held until 3/11/2014" (Doc. 1, p. 5).

Next, Plaintiff complains that too much money was withdrawn from his inmate account to pay restitution that was ordered in a federal case ( United States v. Kendrick Butler, No. 08-0072-4-MWB (N.D. Iowa), where Plaintiff was convicted of bank fraud), and that he was left without any funds to pay for hygiene items, legal material, or other necessities (Doc. 1, p. 7). He asserts that federal rules restrict such withdrawals to $30/month or quarterly. Further, he has not been given indigent hygiene supplies as often as he should receive them.

Plaintiff then returns to a discussion of a disciplinary hearing, apparently on the September 11, 2013, charges (Doc. 1, p. 7). He refers to an "altercation" during which he asked Officer Weaver (who is not a named Defendant) to notify Defendant Anthony (of Internal Affairs). Plaintiff came out of his cell and was "snatched" into another cell by Inmate Wells, who had a weapon. Somebody (either an inmate or a guard) then locked Plaintiff into the cell, where he was assaulted by Wells and attempted to fight him off. He did not receive medical attention for his injuries.

Finally, on November 22, 2013, Plaintiff was placed on investigation status for another disciplinary report (Doc. 1, p. 9). He claims this report was "written by the office of Internal Affairs" in retaliation for a grievance Plaintiff had filed against them. Id. They further retaliated by placing Plaintiff in handcuffs for three days straight, which cut off his circulation and bruised his wrists and ankles. Prison staff also "assault[ed] his body" while he was handcuffed. Id. Plaintiff claims there was no proof that he was guilty of the disciplinary infractions, but he was punished with segregation nonetheless.

Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint, and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from an immune defendant.

An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

Based on the allegations of the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into twelve counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. These counts are as follows:

Count 1: Equal protection claim for denial of access to educational/rehabilitative programs;
Count 2: Excessive force claim for assault by unidentified officers upon Plaintiff's return from a federal court writ;
Count 3: Denial of access to legal materials by law library clerk which caused delay in filing court documents;
Count 4: Equal protection claim and Eighth Amendment claim for denial of medical, legal, and health privileges during excessive lockdown periods;
Count 5: Improper opening of legal mail and mishandling of personal mail;
Count 6: Due process claim for April 11, 2011, disciplinary charges that resulted in Plaintiff serving 60 days excess segregation time before his punishment was reduced;
Count 7: Due process and confrontation clause claims for September 11, 2013, disciplinary charges where Plaintiff was found guilty based on ...

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